Interview with Joe Lui | Creator of Letters Home

Photo by Simon Pynt
Joe Lui | Photo by Simon Pynt Photography

Introducing Joe Lui. Theatre Director and founder of Renegade Productions. Also Sound Designer, Lighting Designer, Technician, Venue Manager and pretty much all round hero of the Perth arts scene. In fact, Joe has worked with almost every major WA theatre company and is a member of Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Emerging Writers Group. But for his Melbourne stage debut he’s got something different on offer.

Following a highly acclaimed season at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre, Joe will present Letters Home – a personal story of youth, power and freedom. The show looks at the period in Joe’s life where he chose not to return to his native Singapore to take up military service, making him a criminal in the eyes of his parents and the Singaporean state.  In this weeks blog we talk to Joe about what Melbourne audiences can expect from this true renegade.

Tell us what you’ve got in store for Melbourne audiences

A work that explores the role that culture and family plays on the people we are. This is coming from someone who has spent a large part of their life separating themselves from family and culture as cleanly as possible.

A deeply personal work that reflects on one part of the migrant experience. One that is (deservedly) less told I suppose… not of hardship, poverty and escaping slaughter, but one of culture and identity shift born of a disconnection from your ‘roots.’

Humor, depravity. I am certainly bringing sexual deviance. Me. All of me, really. I’m in the bar after shows. I have no friends in Melbourne (that is a lie, but still) – come say hi!

What was your inspiration for Letters Home?

Sam Harris has a book called Free Will – which amazingly, discusses the notion of free will. Specifically how it doesn’t exist. How physics, and by extension chemistry, and by extension neurology, and by extension anthropology, and by extension culture, and context and so on determines all. As someone with a continuing interest in ‘freedom’ and ‘standing up to the man,’ this got me thinking.

Couple of things. There’s a 90’s alternative(ish) pop band called Filter. They have that song ‘Take My Picture.’ I’ve listened to it for years, but didn’t realise the lyrics of the bridge – “Hey Dad, what do you think about your son now?” Having not heard from my father for 8 or so years, it got me thinking.

I’ve struggled with identity politics vis-à-vis my personal creative practice for awhile now. I’ve always been averse to the idea of a ‘cultural’ work… I think a lot of the ‘inspiration’ for this work is me growing up and coming to terms with this. This is related to the above point. Should I do what I’m ‘meant’ to do, or what I ‘want’ to do, and am I necessarily able to differentiate or choose?

David Zampatti is a theatre reviewer for The West over here in Perth. Humphrey Bower is one of our most celebrated theatre makers. In separate conversations about my life they gave me the push and the final inspiration needed to go ahead and make this show.

Is it daunting telling your personal story to strangers?

Definitely, but in life I’m pretty much an open book, and I love talking to folk. So it’s less daunting than it is. Also I’m something of an exhibitionist. So maybe I get off on it. You’ll never know…

Have your family had any reactions to the work?

Nope. They aren’t interested really and if they were they wouldn’t get it.

How did audiences respond in Perth?

Incredibly warmly. It will be interesting to see Melbourne audiences, who have less of a connection to me, respond to the piece.

One of the most consistently challenging responses to my work in general is that people aren’t typically overly genial or effusive at the bar afterwards. Having said that one of the most consistently satisfying responses to my work in general is that days, weeks or even months later people come up to me and tell me how much they’d gotten from it, or how much they’d been thinking about it ever since. I hope it’s the same in Melbourne!

Letters Home Season: July 1 – 12, 2015 // Click here for tickets and information

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